Develop 21st-Century Learning Skills, Create Instant Polls

By Dr. L. Robert Furman, principal of South Park Elementary Center, South Park, Penn.

Welcome to Login 4 Leaders, a new feature in which we’ll explore apps that help administrators promote reading as well as deal with day-to-day administrative demands. An educator for 17 years and principal for 10, I am a certifiable technology enthusiast and the author of Instructional Technology Tools: A Professional Development Plan.

I believe school should be a magical place, and technology – along with literacy and parental involvement – is part of that magic. Toward that end, I am constantly exploring technology applications that can improve student achievement and my own productivity.

Let’s embrace technology. It is our future, and our future is now. So let’s get started.

Literacy Tech Tool: Goanimate.com – This free add-creativity-and-stir app can help your students develop problem-solving, presentation, and 21st-century learning skills by allowing them to create cartoons that can be used as a booktalk, as a social studies report, or as an original story. Goanimate.com is also a great tool for teachers and administrators, who can use it in doing their own booktalks, announcements, or reports. Users can choose from various cartoon characters that they can plug into photo backgrounds. Simply pull characters onto the screen from tabs, show them how to walk and interact, and use either your own voice or a provided voice. You can even add soundtracks. No drawing is required, and you can upload your creation to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest.

Administrative Tech Tool: Polleverywhere.com – This incredible app is all about immediate gratification, allowing you to solicit live audience responses instantly for use in the classroom, in meetings, in assemblies, at conferences, and at special events. Create a multiple-choice poll or open-ended response questions, or design a thermometer that responds to additional votes or donations (as I used on our school website for a fund-raising campaign). Audience members vote using cellphones, laptops, and other electronic devices with web access. Answers show up immediately on the screen. At a faculty meeting, you can ask your teachers, “Which schedule do you want?” Bam! You have the results. This tool is also helpful in issuing exit cards or checking for understanding in a classroom. And like the previous app, it can be used by people of any age – including students, who may be able to incorporate the app into a live presentation in classrooms where children have their own laptops.

Dr. Furman is a guest blogger for The Huffington Post. Email tips or questions to him at rob@furmanr.com, or text him directly at 412-999-0449. Follow him on Twitter @drfurman.
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